Mormon women's rights campaigner loses appeal against excommunication
The founder of a Mormon group who was excommunicated over her advocacy for women’s ordination within the church says she has lost her appeal.
Kate Kelly’s organisation, Ordain Women, said on Friday that her appeal was denied by regional church leaders in Virginia, where she used to live. Kelly, a human rights lawyer who now lives in Utah, said she would now appeal to the worldwide leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In a letter posted by Ordain Women on Friday, Kelly is told “this short letter is to advise you that the decision of the council is to confirm and sustain the initial decision.” She is told a more detailed letter, responding to the points raised in her appeal, would follow within two weeks.
In a statement to Deseret News, Kelly vowed to continue her appeal. “It is not too late for my leaders to declare my innocence and restore me to full fellowship,” she said.
In June, Kelly was tried in absentia by an all-male panel of three judges, and found guilty of apostasy, defined as repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings. It is the most serious punishment the church court can administer. The excommunication means she cannot participate in church proceedings such as taking the sacrament, speaking at church or offer public prayer at a church meeting.
Ordain Women was founded in 2013 to push for women to be allowed in the all-male lay clergy. The group staged demonstrations outside two church conferences, drawing criticism from church leaders.
In a June letter informing her of the excommunication, her former ecclesiastical leader, Bishop Mark Harrison, told her the punishment could be temporary.
“These conditions almost always last at least one year,” Harrison said. “If you show true repentance and satisfy the conditions imposed below while you are no longer a member, you may be readmitted by baptism and confirmation.”
She could be re-baptised in the church, provided she abides by certain conditions, Bishop Harrison said in the email.
“In order to be considered for readmission to the church, you will need to demonstrate over a period of time that you have stopped teachings and actions that undermine the church, its leaders, and the doctrine of the priesthood. You must be truthful in your communications with others regarding matters that involve your priesthood leaders, including the administration of church discipline, and you must stop trying to gain a following for yourself or your cause and taking actions that could lead others away from the church.”
Church spokeswoman Kristen Howey said on Friday church discipline is a private matter between members and their local leaders.